Before children (B.C.), I was a teacher. I taught a Head Start preschool program for four-year-olds and loved it. I espoused the virtues of preschool—long-term benefits include everything from better marriages to higher salaries—to anyone who would listen. So when my oldest daughter turned three, I assumed we’d be signing her up at the local preschool. “Mommy,” she said one morning, “do I HAVE to go to preschool?” I was stumped, and after talking to my husband, we agreed that there was no REAL reason for her to start preschool at three. We could wait a year. After a year, we still didn’t feel ready, so one year of waiting turned into two years, which turned into no preschool. We didn’t put my youngest in, either. Now that my youngest has started kindergarten, I feel confident enough that with our sample size of two, I can speak to the value of preschool. Here is my point of view, as both a former preschool teacher and a preschool-free mom.
Pro: You get to spend the preschool years with your kids.
YOU get to be the one to show them letters and numbers, and see their little faces light up at stories. You get to be the one to give them snacks and tuck them in for naps. Those days really do fly by, and you get to spend every one of them with your babies.
Con: You get to spend the preschool years with your kids.
Let’s just say “Mommy gets a pap smear” was not the science lesson I anticipated that day.
Pro: Kindergarten is a brand new, wonderful experience.
My youngest is delighted by everything in school. “We walked down the hall!” “We counted!” “We got lunches in a lunch box!” “I played with my friend on a swing!” I attribute that in part to the fact that school is a totally new frontier and therefore exciting. I wonder if kindergarten would lose some of its mystique if she had been in preschool.
Con: Kindergarten is the first time they’ve been away from you.
Save from a few Vegas weekends, my kids were used to all Mom, all the time. After her first day, my oldest told me, “I really missed you, mommy, but I didn’t cry.” My youngest said “Bye, Felicia!”—but that’s another post. If your kiddo is sensitive and has a hard time transitioning, the switch may be overwhelming.
Pro: They won’t be exposed to preschool germs.
You say “preschool,” I hear “cesspool.” My preschool teaching years were spent mainly cleaning up boogers and barf. Clorox wipes and Lysol spray can only kill so much. While our preschool years were certainly not illness-free, my kids were definitely healthier than their friends who attended preschool.
Cons: This might make them sicker when they’re older.
Kids who are exposed to illnesses at a younger age (like preschool) tend to be healthier as they get older. While missing days of preschool is not the end of the world, missing days of elementary school is a bigger deal.
Pros: Your kids will probably catch up academically to their preschool-attending classmates.
Among educators, it is generally said that kids who didn’t attend preschool tend to catch up to their counterparts by 2nd grade. Research supports the fact that the academic gains tend to “fade out” by the end of elementary school, if not sooner.
Cons: That doesn’t mean it won’t hurt when your kindergartner is behind.
My oldest could write her name, recognize most letters, but not much else by the time she got her first kindergarten report card. Her teacher gave her some things that she needed to improve upon, which was hard on this perfectionist mom’s heart. I know it was a little frustrating for her when most of her classmates could write. However, by the end of kindergarten, she was in the advanced reader program and continues to read above grade level. Like I said, the gains tend to fade out.
Pros: Skipping preschool saves money.
Preschool is no small chunk of change, costing anywhere from $4,000 up to $13,000 annually. That money could be spent on fun outings with your preschooler, or going into their college fund.
There is no real right or wrong answer that can uniformly be applied to a family. Even though preschool wasn’t for us, it might be great for you.
Did you send your kids to preschool? Why or why not?